Over the years I’ve grown mostly comfortable with my vices. Or maybe I should say I’ve grown comfortable with most of my vices. But there is a particular personal problem that dogs my days, one that I think is utterly hopeless. I'm a jar-oholic.
Mind you, I don’t lust for just any old jar. I can chuck a plastic peanut butter or jam jar into the recycling in the time it takes to say petroleum product. Glass jars are my issue. They are another receptacle entirely. I love the heft in my hand, the way they show off their contents when full, and their sparkling transparency when empty and clean. I love their long cyclical lives, the filling and eating and washing and cleaning and storing and refilling. They have a permanence that stands against the crazy-making transience of this high-speed world that we have concocted for ourselves.
At least this is my excuse. But I realized the depth of my problem on a recent trip to Yonkers, New York to visit my son and his family. People who would pass for normal (at least “normal” in my world) would have been surreptitiously trying to stow their grandson in their suitcase. Not I. A newly emptied one-gallon pickle jar was what I was jonesin’ for. I imagined stuffing my dirty clothes into it to make enough space in the luggage. Seriously.
My wife could tell. She gave me one of those looks that let me know that she knows how crazy I am. The last time I came home with a case of jars from our local recycling center, she very politely told me there was enough room left in our overstuffed house for either me or another case of jars. So I built another shed. Three quarters of the shelving is used for empty jars. There are gallon jars for honey, quart and half gallon juice jars, all manner of half pints, pints, and quarts (who doesn’t need both wide- and regular-mouth configurations?). I know, I know. It’s pathological.
She kept an eye on me while I packed for the trip home from Yonkers. I was allowed to save a smaller half-gallon pickle jar with some pretty designs molded into the sides from certain death by recycling. I packed it tightly with dirty underwear and T-shirts. She kindly fished the matching lid out of the garbage. I have no idea what I’ll do with this beautiful piece of glass---maybe pack it with Titus Cannellini dry beans or dried Cascade Ruby Gold Corn that I’m growing this summer over at Smith River Memorial Garden II.
There was a time when I was on a first name basis with a local woman who sold recycled glass. She made it a special point to save all of her 10-oz oyster jars for me and would call when she thought there were enough piled up to warrant a trip out to her place. Oyster jars are heavy walled and the perfect size for salmon and tuna and wild blackberry jam. Because most folks blithely toss canning jars into the recycling bin, I never hand these 10ers out when we give food for the holidays. Why not? Because nearly all oysters are now sold in plastic jars, and those perfect pieces of glass won’t be made again. I brought one of these home from Yonkers also.
My jar lust has come naturally. Mom is 81 and an unrecovered addict, so I know that she has no intention of kicking her habit. Last month she needed some help looking for a box of copper cookware in the storage area above the pantry. I’m not sure how many cases of canning jars I moved out of the way to find that box of pots and pans. She chose the right person for this chore. Not only did I withhold judgement, I reveled in those boxes of jars. You can wander off into the unresolvable weeds of the nature/nurture aspect of our shared jar problem. The bottom line is this: Mom knows whom she raised.
Mom is unapologetic, and so am I. Canning season is coming, and soon both of us will be absolved for another year. My tomato jungle will be converted into pints of deep red sauce. The sagging limbs of the pear tree will be relieved of their load, and the peeled white fruit bottled in wide-mouth quarts topped up with light brown honey syrup. There will be quarts of elderberry juice so deeply purple that no light escapes, 10-oz jars of pumpkin-fleshed salmon, and gallons of amber honey. I do love my jars. But mostly I love the life contained within them.